Saturday, August 6, 2016

Soccer Friendlies in U.S. are a Sign of Disrespect

When will this 'friendly madness' in the U.S. end? From the looks of the most recent attendance figures, it might take a long while. More than one million fans attended summer soccer 'friendlies' in the U.S. this year.

I'd say blame some of it on the breadth and depth of the many growing metro areas throughout the country, especially ones without a high-level pro soccer team kicking around. These fake games are still creating quite a stir after breaking through the sports spectator clutter several summers back.

These international soccer exhibitions are supposed to bring a dose for how soccer is supposed to be, according to purist thinking. American fans should see how soccer can be the 'beautiful game' with uniforms from leagues, other than MLS. The most watched ones are teams from EPL, La Liga, Serie A and Bundesliga playing each other. Other ones involve a local team tries to play hero ball and beat the aristocratic foreign team.

The promoters of these events must think these foreign teams have tremendous appeal for U.S. sports fans because of their tradition as the soccer elite teams of the world. They invite them to participate in the U.S. because soccer traditionalists say they are superior. What the 'friendlies' really show us is how much farther soccer has to go to become mainstream. These 'friendlies' should not be as popular as they are. (I said a few years back that a broader FIFA Club World Cup is the best answer for handling the popularity of 'friendlies'.)

The pyramid of pro soccer in the U.S. has not completely solidified itself and has too many empty pockets around the country. People wouldn't have to get so excited about these 'friendlies' if they had pro soccer communities with rivalries and popular players who were noted for their outstanding abilities with the ball.

But, what it really comes down to, besides the lack of pro soccer infiltration, is that championship U.S. pro soccer has not struck enough of a nerve with the casual sports fan. Otherwise, Seattle wouldn't produce 38,000 fans to see West Ham on a Tuesday night and they wouldn't be out in droves of major MLS markets to see European and Mexican 'friendlies'.

It's not unfair at all to call a 'friendly' a fake game. Why? Because players are not playing at full speed and contact. It's just a fact. No player wants to injure himself when there is nothing at stake. It's a glorified practice and that's about it. Most of the time, the best players, the 'star' players either don't play or play part-time. 'Friendlies' go out of there way to include more substitution of players, so that players from both teams are not completely obligated or completely engaged. There are a lot less sacrifices made by players during 'friendlies.'

It's a fake game, but sports fans in the U.S. are still eating these 'friendlies' up.

I don't get it and I never will. I can only go to a game that is being played for the most important reason, to win and extend the chances to ultimately win a championship. Even with end of the year games for my team that don't matter in the standings because my team is not making the playoffs, I'd rather do something else. I don't consider myself a fair-weathered fan, I'd just prefer to invest my time in games that matter.

The success of these international 'friendlies' are a sign that American pro soccer is still not being respected by sports fans. It's when people are not attending them that the sport will really start to blossom. This includes a good pro game locally with a rival being more intriguing than a bunch of guys from foreign-named teams running around at 60-70% capacity.

2 comments:

  1. It's the equivalent of NFL pre-season games. It's not supposed to be the world cup. it's supposed assist players in getting in shape, give fans something to get excited about, and make a little money. These friendlies achieve all that.

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    1. You're referring to the European/Mexican sides, but these teams don't play regular season games here, MLS does. MLS is the league for our country. MLS pre-season games should have an audience according to your logic.

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